Jimmy Jones - bass lead vocal; The Sensationals (personnel unknown) - vocals; Unknown - guitar; Professor Herman Stevens - organ; Master of Ceremonies - Doc Wheeler
George Wein, the jazz impresario behind the Newport Jazz Festival and the Newport Folk Festival (which began in 1954 and 1959 respectively), is responsible for showcasing younger, older, and rediscovered jazz, blues, and folk musicians alike. However, his vision also included adding complementary elements to the festivals, which presented leading and lesser-known figures from the regular Newport Festival programs at morning and afternoon workshops on the festival grounds.
By the time of the 1959 festivals (the year the Newport Folk Festival was launched) one of these complementary elements had become a Sunday morning workshop spotlighting gospel music. Prior to this, the richest expression of gospel music had primarily been relegated to churches and was intrinsically bound in the development of fundamentalist religion within the southern Afro-American communities. The Newport workshops broke ground by presenting gospel music in a non-secular environment.
Although many of the artists featured were strictly gospel singers, crossover performers like the Swan Silvertone Singers and Dorothy Love Coates were also included, exposing the young, primarily northern white audience to the primarily southern black gospel artists in an intimate setting. In doing so, the festivals provided many northern white listeners with their first exposure to traditional gospel music.
With the help of legendary producer John Hammond and with respected musician and popular disc jockey, Doc Wheeler serving as master of ceremonies, they gathered many of the most impressive gospel singers on a single stage. At a time when soul music hadn't yet developed into a genre of its own, the energy, earthiness, and earnestness of these gospel performances made for an enthralling listening experience.
Here, we present in near entirety, the Sunday, July 5th Gospel Workshop presented at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival. Not only did the 1959 presentation feature a world-class overview of gospel singers, but it also included Professor Herman Stevens accompanying all the acts on organ. One of the best organists in gospel, having served on countless Savoy Records recording sessions, Stevens' presence adds continuity and authenticity to the already impressive lineup.
The second performance at the July 5, 1959 Gospel Workshop showcases the earth-shaking bass singer, Jimmy Jones, who hailed from Richmond, Virginia. Backed by his vocal quartet, the Sensationals, and with Professor Herman Stevens sitting in on organ, Jones applies his thunderous voice to gospel music and the results are quite moving. A contemporary of Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and James Brown, Jones is best remembered for recordings like "Come And Go With Me" and "Handyman," both of which were covered by many other artists during the decades to come. His deep commanding voice, which featured a surprising falsetto break, is quite unique. Although his vocal technique would eventually be perceived as a gimmick moving forward into the 1960s, Jones was no doubt influential.
Although Jimmy Jones would fare less well commercially than many of his contemporaries, he is captured here at his most impressive, singing songs of praise and redemption. These performances of "Friends Talk About Me," "Before This Time Another Year" (which incorporates "Oh Lord, How Long" into the arrangement), and "I Don't Need Nobody But The Lord" are outstanding examples of this remarkable vocal soloist. The Sensationals and an unknown guitarist provide able accompaniment and memorable vocal arrangements, but it is Jimmy Jones' remarkably deep voice that immediately commands attention.